Fantasy Football Week 3 Relax or React: 7 Breakdowns on Troublesome Names, Including Kyle Pitts, Russell Wilson, More
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Russell Wilson.
We are officially two weeks, or 11.8% of the way through the NFL regular season. It’s a little premature to take victory laps, but we can examine and reflect on some of our more suspect preseason takes and draft choices.
Below are seven underperforming players who may have you contemplating your (fantasy) life decisions entering Week 3 and what I recommend doing with them.
QB Russell Wilson, Broncos
Expectations were high for nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson, who was dealt to the Broncos via a blockbuster trade this offseason and subsequently signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension. Wilson was coming off of his worst fantasy season in which he finished as QB19, though that was in part a byproduct of injuries. In the nine seasons prior, he never finished below the top-12 and even finished as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in 2017.
Wilson was drafted as the QB10 according to FantasyPros ADP, which I thought was fair, if not slightly undervalued for an elite signal-caller moving to (what appeared to be) a better franchise with weapons such as Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon and Albert Okwuegbunam.
However, Wilson has been underwhelming through two weeks and has yet to post a multi-touchdown game. His 58.9% completion rate would be the lowest of his career, and his QB14 and QB24 finishes aren’t going to cut it for fantasy managers.
Verdict: I am slightly concerned about Wilson’s fantasy outlook for the rest of the season. Coaching decisions — among other factors out of his control — have negatively impacted his production through two weeks. Realistically, there was always going to be somewhat of a learning curve for Wilson and the new coaching staff.
Wilson remains a low-end QB1 with downside and could struggle this week against the 49ers. After that, the Broncos’ schedule lightens up as he faces the Raiders on the road, the Colts at home, the Chargers on the road, the Jets at home and the Jaguars on the road before a Week 9 bye. Hopefully by then, we will see some vintage Russ and these growing pains will be a thing of the past.
QB Tom Brady, Buccaneers
Seemingly ageless Tom Brady is coming off of yet another stellar season. The seven-time Super Bowl champion led the league with a career-high 5,316 passing yards and finished as the QB3 in fantasy. As such, he was drafted as the QB8, which felt like a steal for a signal-caller with top three potential.
Unfortunately, Brady’s 2022 performances have been conservative at best. He completed 18 of 27 attempts for 212 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Week 1 in Dallas, finishing as the QB26. In Week 2 in New Orleans, he completed 18 of 34 attempts for 190 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions, finishing as the QB28.
The passing volume is what worries me most: Brady’s 30.5 attempts per game are 27.9% lower than his 2021 average of 42.3. His average depth of target is also cause for concern as he averaged 7.4 yards per attempt in 2021 and is averaging 6.6 yards per attempt in 2022.
In fairness to the 45-year-old quarterback, the Buccaneers‘ pass-catching corps has been downgraded significantly since last season due to attrition and injuries. The 2022 squad is without Antonio Brown and Brady’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, who retired again this offseason. Chris Godwin suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2021 season. Godwin returned in Week 1, only to suffer a hamstring injury, which could keep him sidelined for weeks. Recently acquired Julio Jones looked solid in his Tampa Bay debut, but is now dealing with a hamstring injury which held him out of Week 2.
Mike Evans has played both weeks, but has been dealing with a calf injury. Evans will also miss Week 3 as a result of his actions against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore in Week 2. Pass-catching running back Leonard Fournette has been banged up with a hamstring injury, though he has been active in both games.
Verdict: I am moderately concerned about Brady’s fantasy outlook, especially if this conservative trend continues. It is important to provide context to his anemic fantasy production thus far as he will likely perform much better once all of his weapons are healthy.
If, however, injuries continue to plague the Buccaneers, Brady’s fantasy potential will remain capped. He is a low-end QB1 moving forward.
QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Unlike Wilson, expectations were significantly lower for four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers heading into 2022. Rodgers had finished as a top 11 QB in each of the past four seasons and in all but two seasons since taking over for Brett Favre in 2008. However, many wondered how his fantasy production would be impacted amid the loss of his star wideout, Davante Adams. Rodgers was drafted as the QB9, likely based in part on name recognition and pedigree.
Rodgers was abysmal in Week 1 in Minnesota. He completed 22 of 34 attempts for 195 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception — good enough for five fantasy points and a QB32 finish (remind me how many quarterbacks there are?). In fairness, the team was without two offensive linemen, David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, and now-top receiver, Allen Lazard.
Rodgers bounced back in the Packers‘ home opener against the Bears, completing 19 of 25 attempts for 234 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions, though a QB17 finish still isn’t cutting it in most lineups.
Verdict: I wasn’t super high on Rodgers heading into the season, so the fact that he’s been underperforming expectations hasn’t surprised me. I would consider him a high-end QB2 for the rest of the season and you may want to sit him in bad matchups. That could come as early as this week on the road against Tampa Bay, whose defense has allowed just 13 points and one touchdown this season.
I would consider streaming someone like Carson Wentz (vs. Philadelphia), Kirk Cousins (vs. Detroit) or Derek Carr (at Tennessee) if any of them happen to be available on your bench or waiver wire.
TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons
Tight end phenom Kyle Pitts faced lofty expectations in his rookie campaign at a position known to have a sharper learning curve than others. With Calvin Ridley out for most of the season, Pitts exceeded expectations on a lean receiving depth chart and tallied 68 catches for 1,026 yards and one touchdown. He finished as the TE5 in half PPR, trailing only Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce, Dalton Schultz and George Kittle. This year, Pitts was drafted as the TE3 with Ridley suspended for the season.
So far, Pitts has been one of the more frustrating cases for fantasy. He caught two of seven targets for 19 yards in Week 1 against the Saints and caught two of three targets for 19 yards in Week 2 against the Rams (at least he is consistent). His paltry 12% target share last week seems borderline criminal and after the game head coach Arthur Smith had this to say about Pitts usage:
“It’s not fantasy football. We’re just trying to win.”
Verdict: I am giving Pitts one more week before I go into full panic mode. There are only so many weeks I can blindly support him based on talent, pedigree and last year’s production.
Pitts managers are in quite the pickle, as they likely had to drop a third-round pick to draft him, and if you were to sell now, it would be for pennies on the dollar. I am encouraged by his usage in 93% of snaps last week (up from 84%) and am cautiously optimistic his targets will increase in weeks to come.
If Pitts is a dud for the third straight week, I would absolutely consider benching him until the situation changes. You can’t trade him, so you may as well stash him in the hopes that Smith has an epiphany and remembers that Pitts is the most talented player on the Falcons.
TE Cole Kmet, Bears
Bears tight end Cole Kmet had a good — not great — 2021 season. He appeared in all 17 games and caught 60 passes for 612 yards, though he didn’t find the end zone all year. He finished as the TE22 in half PPR and was drafted as the TE11 in light of the Bears’ lean depth chart, a speculative sophomore leap for quarterback Justin Fields and the hope of some positive touchdown regression.
Kmet and I have something in common in that we both have zero fantasy points through two weeks. He has been targeted once in each of Chicago’s two games and has tallied zero catches, zero yards and zero fantasy points. Unlike other underperforming players, Kmet doesn’t have the pedigree or system around him to inspire hope for the future.
Verdict: Kmet is droppable in almost any fantasy format. There is really no sugar coating how dreadful he has been. He has next to zero upside in the Bears’ horrendous offense and is clearly not a priority on this team. Kmet belongs on the waiver wire and could be replaced by players such as Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Hayden Hurst, Logan Thomas, Evan Engram, Mike Gesicki, Tyler Conklin or virtually any other tight end.
RB Travis Etienne Jr., Jaguars
First-rounder Travis Etienne Jr. missed the entirety of 2021 due to a Lisfranc injury he suffered in the preseason. He was drafted in 2022 with plenty of optimism as the RB17 in half PPR. There was hope Etienne would breakout and become the Jaguars’ workhorse back as James Robinson quietly faded away.
Etienne fans had every right to believe in him, especially with Robinson coming off of a late-season torn Achilles. Etienne is arguably the more talented and versatile running back of the pair and has a pre-eexisting relationship with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, with whom he won the CFP National Championship at Clemson.
Unfortunately for Etienne drafters, things have not played out that way. Through two weeks, Robinson has outperformed Etienne in snap counts, touches and overall production. The pair basically split snaps evenly (51% to 49%) in Week 1 and that shifted much more in favor of Robinson in Week 2 (37% to 63%).
Etienne saw six touches to Robinson’s 12 in Week 1 and saw 12 touches to Robinson’s 25 in Week 2. Etienne has finished as the RB38 and RB34, while Robinson has finished as the RB8 and RB7 in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively.
Verdict: Heading into the season, I was bullish on Robinson and have zero shares of Etienne as a result, so none of this is particularly shocking. I shied away from Etienne at cost given the possibility of a timeshare, though I did not foresee Robinson dominating the backfield entirely.
I do believe Etienne is a talented back. I do not suggest dropping him or trying to trade him at his point. At the very worst, Etienne is one of the highest value backups. He’s definitely worth keeping based on his upside — even more so if the Jaguars are going to be more competitive in games than in previous years.
WR Darnell Mooney, Bears
Expectations were fairly high entering the 2022 season for perennial sleeper candidate Darnell Mooney as the Bears’ WR1. He finished as the WR26 in half PPR in 2021 and many hoped he would take a step forward in Year 3 absent any legitimate competition from the Chicago depth chart and in the hopes Fields would also progress.
Mooney was drafted as the WR33 and has been a complete flop thus far. He has just two catches for four yards over two games despite playing 90% of the snaps in each contest.
Verdict: Mooney is not startable in any format. I’m okay with stashing him in deeper leagues, but he is droppable for better options. The Bears have a soft schedule coming up at home against Houston, on the road against the Giants, on the road against the Vikings and at home against the Commanders. That said, there are multiple waiver wire targets I would rather roster over Mooney. We could very well be witnessing Allen Robinson 2021, version 2.0. I think Mooney has potential, but he will remain seriously limited in the Bears offense.